Despite conducting their summer transfer business early this year, it became apparent towards the end of the window that Unai Emery was plotting a late move for additional defensive reinforcements, and it has now emerged that one player in the mix was Hamza Mendyl.
The Schalke defender has revealed that he anticipated making the switch from Lille to north London during the summer, but a move ultimately failed to materialise.
Schalke left-back Hamza Mendyl on nearly joining Arsenal: “It’s true: I was in talks with Arsenal and Newcastle. But as a Moroccan citizen it’s not that easy to obtain a work permit. I would have trusted myself to play Premier League.”— Mattias Karén (@MattiasKaren) August 22, 2018
Instead, the 20-year-old completed a move from Ligue 1 to the Bundesliga, joining Schalke 04. In an interview with German outlet Kicker, the Moroccan defender explained the move, saying: “I’ve been in talks with Arsenal and Newcastle, but being a Moroccan citizen it’s not so easy to get a work permit there.
“I would have thought I’d play in England.”
Arsenal’s search for defensive reinforcements was largely a result of lengthy injury setbacks for both Sead Kolasinac and captain Laurent Koscielny. The Gunners also saw Calum Chambers departing from the Emirates on loan to Fulham, however they did manage to sign Sokratis Papastathopoulos from Borussia Dortmund.
Nacho Monreal also returned late to the Gunners' pre-season preparations following his World Cup participation during the summer. The Spaniard was also carrying a knee injury which kept him out of contention for Arsenal's opening game of the season against Manchester City.
Ainsley Maitland-Niles deputised at left back in that 2-0 defeat, and the Englishman was injured during the game at the Emirates. It has been something of a domino effect of issues in Unai Emery's defensive ranks, particularly at left back, which would have made Mendyl's signing all the more timely, had it materialised.